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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  November 10, 2014 2:00am-2:59am PST

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i'm in pain and so hurt and so sad. i would give anything for christian to be here. >> they were new to college and newly in love. the whole world ahead of them. >> he grabbed my chin and he pulled me up and just gives me this magical kiss. >> but their secret romance would lead to something shattering when christian vanished. >> oh, god. my young life went out the window. >> it was tense. we were nervous. we were scared. >> i'm starting to believe that there might be more to this than just a missing person. >> where was he? did someone have something to
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hide? >> there was blood found in the car. >> a lover's triangle, a circle of friends. is one of them a killer? >> this was planned. this was on purpose. >> how could you do something so horrific? >> i'm lester holt and this is "dateline." here is dennis murphy with circle of friends. ♪ >> reporter: remember going away to college, maybe your first time away from home. there were new friends waiting to be made, the tingling of possibilities. >> oh, god. the first kiss was amazing. >> reporter: sometimes disappoint when things didn't work out. >> i thought he was just depressed. just didn't take it that seriously. and, you know, maybe we should have. >> reporter: for three florida teenagers, the decisions they made as they started campus life had terrifying lethal consequences. >> i mean, it all seems so
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surreal. when we were told about it, this can't possibly be happening. >> reporter: the story of our three begins at a high school near miami, not quite hog warts, but erica, pedro and christian were inseparable. a trio of friends laughing and wrestling through adolescents together at a charter school for high-achieving smart kids. >> i moved there in 2006 for sixth grade. >> for erica freeman, doral academy was a special place. >> i met people from all over the world actually. it was really interesting. they had a lot of opportunities, academically that i don't think you get at an average high school. >> erica was smart, up beat, pretty. she loved everything from skydiving to shakespeare. in in her sophomore year, she caught the eye of a cute guy in class, pedro bravo. >> he was a big clown. he was kind of a funny guy around people. he was always making jokes.
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not really act out in class, but he would act out as soon as class was over. it was just, you know to get a crowd laughing or this or that. >> pedro was a fellow rock, solid student with an artistic flair. his journals were full of sketches and doodles that friends thought showed real talent. >> i mean, he could draw anything, anything you wanted. >> robert lopez was a friend and classmate. >> so anything from graphic comics up to -- >> yeah. >> a picture, art, right? >> yeah. he was very, very, very gifted in that sense. >> erica and pedro quickly became an item. teenage lovers but with adult dreams. >> we were in a pretty serious relationship. we were a little more mature than the average. we didn't go out and drink. we were just very focussed on school and each other. >> another sharply focussed classmate in their circle was pedro's good buddy, christian aguilar. >> i met him through pedro. he was awesome. he was funny and he was nice and we instantly were good friends. >> christian was the soccer
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player who hit the books. the son of columbian immigrants became the all-american boy. video games, kanye west rap in his ears and plans to become a doctor. >> it sounds as though to understand christian, you have to realize how academically motivated he was. >> oh, yeah. he was very driven. it wasn't like his family was pushing him. it wasn't -- it was just that he wanted to make them proud. >> reporter: these three high-achieving musketeers, christian, erica and pedro, all doubled at prom together and posed for this snapshot in the waning days of high school. >> i mean, did you guys do a limo and the whole thing? >> we did. we all showed up. we took plenty of pictures. you know, it was fun. >> reporter: for a lot of american kids, it was for these three, graduation from high school is one of those big paths crossing in the woods a lot of what are you going to do next? let's stay friends forever kind of good-byes. >> mr. christian aguilar. >> reporter: christian, scholar that he was, intent on pursuing
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premed, got admitted to the selective university of florida gainesville. >> reporter: was he happy when his acceptance came through? >> he was so happy. he was ecstatic. >> they all wanted to be gators at the u of f as a top school, only christian got in. erica was headed to a different college in gainesville, santa fe. and pedro planned to take classes near his home in miami. erica broke it off with pedro. she didn't want a long-distance relationship. after all, they were just 18 years old. and the big, wide world was ahead of them both. >> i wanted him to find someone and fall in love with them and live a normal life. i just didn't think he was the one for me. >> reporter: they were barely unpacked, classes just starting when a sudden change of plans. pedro didn't want to be left behind in miami after all. as the fall semester started, he showed up in gainesville, as his
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friend robert remembered. >> he just visited gainesville and that was the intention was just to visit. and then he ended up signing a lease and enrolling for classes in the fall at santa fe college. >> maybe there was life after hog warts for erica, pedro and christian. could the friendship be renewed? ? if that was indeed the hope, it was dashed with awful news on september 21st, 2012. >> it was tense. we were nervous. we were scared, you know, what could have happened? >>reporter: christian never showed up at his dorm that night and wasn't answering his phone. >> it's not like christian to just not answer. it's not like him to just disappear. there was something wrong. >> reporter: christian aguilar had vanished. what could be behind christian's sudden disappearance? when we come back, retracing his last steps a rough neighborhood, and a curious
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stranger. >> he tells me at one point that he stopped and picked up a hitchhiker. >> then eventually the hitchhiker was like, i want to get out of the car. shortly after, christian said, i want to get out of the car, too. the most adventurous couple. once we kept the lights on. but then we started using k-y yours & mine. yeah, we were nervous to try it. there's an amazing sensation for her. amazing. this one feels fantastic for me. and combined... ohh, it's a completely new sensation for us both. it's opened a whole new door for us. i've come to clean your pool. but we don't have a pool. i'll come in anyway. next week i'm going to be a maid. [ female announcer ] k-y yours & mine. his excites. hers delights. together feel them ignite. keep life sexy. together feel them ignite. okay patrick, let's go base, shark, blitz. the nfl trusts duracell quantum to power their game day communication. abort! abort! he's keeping it! duracell quantum. lasts up to 35% longer than the competition.
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♪ three teenagers, all college freshman in gainesville, florida, long-time friends, but now one of them, christian, was
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a no-show for meeting with his circle of friends. didn't pick up the phone. not so much as a text. >> and it got later and later and i started calling our friends. i'm like, hey, i just want to make sure -- have you seen christian? >> we're not getting texts back, when do you start to go from worried to freaked out? >> all that night, i couldn't really sleep. i had passed by his dorm room to see if possible, you know, his phone died and he couldn't answer, his phone got wet. i was thinking of all these different scenarios and he wasn't in his dorm. where was he all night? where was he staying? where with husband sleeping? where is he? >>reporter: the next morning, still nothing from christian. he hadn't come back to his dorm room. so erica and pedro, her ex-boyfriend, together went to the gainesville, police. >> we go to the window and start explaining our situation and the lady pretty much laughs at me. >> r. >> reporter: they're blowing you off? >> yeah. i was just there like, this lady better hope there's nothing wrong here. i was so upset at this point. i just wanted someone to pay
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attention. this was a serious thing. >> reporter: but after all, christian wouldn't be the first college freshman to go off the grid for a bit, maybe taking a break from his studies, crashing at another dorm. but his friends were worried. and the cops told them to go see if the campus police could help. >> the big thing that i want to find out is, has anyone been in contact and when was the last time they contacted them, where was the last time anybody was in contact with them? >> reporter: officer tim peck talked to the concern pair. found out that pedro was the last friend to see christian the previous day. >> and he kind of walks me through the day, you know, once he meets christian. they go to infermry, christian needs to get a flu shot. then they go back to pedro's car, which is parked on campus. at that point, they go to best buy. >> reporter: a pretty routine afternoon, until pedro told him, they decided to do something a little impulsive. >> he tells me at one point they stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. >> reporter: pedro told officer peck and air karks they drove
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around town for a bit. >> eventually the hiech hiker is like, i want to get out of the car. shortly after, christian said, i want to get out of the car too. just pull over. i want to get out. >> r. >> reporter: and that is where the friends parted. near this auto body shop a few miles off campus. that neighborhood around the body shop raised alarms for officer peck. it had some rough spots. >> some of the area is known to be a high drug area, has some gang activity as well. so that kind of concerned me were they up there specifically for that reason or in the process of christian getting dropped off, did he run into something or wander into a bad area. >> i knew there was a large homeless community in gainesville and still is, so i was a little concerned about that. if he was in the woods somewhere and he stumbled into a campground of homeless people and, you know, they decide to do something to him, you know, that was one of the options i had thought of. >> reporter: a gang area? homeless camps and a mysterious
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hitchhiker, there seemed reason enough to be worried. erica called christian's parents, carlos and claudia aguilar down in miami and told them that christian was missing. >> what did you think? >> i knew that something was wrong. >> reporter: it was that worrying for you. >> yeah. >> >> reporter: whaif yor was not christian. >> that was not christian. >> they jumped in the drive to make the long drive to gainesville. >> we really didn't talk. we didn't know what to say to one another. >> reporter: what did that word missing mean to you? >> at first, maybe i was trying to be positive, was just him went out to a party. maybe he got injured. maybe he got into a car accident. we couldn't tell because we don't know who he hangs out with. >> reporter: once they arrive, police had questions for alex and his parents, too. >> they bring us into this small little room. we have an officer who gave us a few questions, asking what type of person is christian. is he normally like this? would he usually go out? did he drink?
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does he do any drugs? >> what were you seeing in christian's parents during this period? >> confused. pain. there was pain in their eyes. >> but erica says they were all about to channel that pain into determination. with more friends heading up from miami. >> i had a whole group of individuals who were now just as concerned as i was, just as focussed as i was, just as driven to find christian. i didn't feel so alone once they got there. i felt like, we're going to find him. we can do this. >> reporter: christian's family and friends were hopeful he would turn up and soon. and for officer peck, the case of the missing student got more baffling when he caught wind of a secret. christian had been trying to hide something. was his secret the key to finding him? >> there's something else going on here that i'm not aware of what exactly that is, i'm not sure. coming up -- the secret turns out someone else knew it, too, and it was about to be revealed right there at the
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police station. >> do you know christian? >> yes, yes. >> had you known -- >> i was just concerned that i was going to push him off t
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erica freeman and pedro bravo were at that uf campus police station trying to help the cops track down their friend christian. surveillance cameras were rolling as they made their report to officer tick peck. then his team quickly went to work, tracing the missing student with the usual technological tools. they pinged his cell phone. it was off. checked the university computers, christian had not logged on. >> we checked with the hospitals, local hospitals to see if he was in there. then we also checked with our notes from the previous night, ran his name to see if he's had any contact with us. checked with the city and the county. their main dispatch center to see if they had any contact with him. >> reporter: no sign of christian anywhere. >> you're still calling, still texting? >> i'm still calling, still texting. sending him messages, we're going to find you. i love you so much. i can't wait to see you again.
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everything is going to be okay. trying to calm myself down. >> reporter: and it was in those hours inside the campus police station that erica disclosed a secret that christian had been keeping, it was her secret, too. since high school graduation, and her breakup with pedro, she and christian had become more than friends. >> it was very exciting. we thought it was great. we thought, this is us learning how to get used to gainesville. it was like i had my best friend with me. it was somebody who i could always turn to, somebody i did always turn to and somebody now that was always going to be there for me. >> reporter: who made the first move for the first embrace? >> he did. he drove to my house. i see him and i instantly -- we hugged. and i'm there and i'm just nervous. i haven't been this nervous. all these butterflies in my stomach. he grabs my chin and he pulled me up and gives me this magical kiss. >> reporter: and you became a
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couple that moment? >> oh, yeah. it was like -- our first date was going to a restaurant, chick-fil-a and we just both had all those butterflies in our stomachs and we just felt like, is this really happening? is this still really happening? i just kept pinching myself, god, this is crazy. i can't believe this. >>. >> reporter: and in a matter of weeks, their young lives, she and christian had changed deeply. they were madly, deeply in love. what do you think the two of you had? >> something very rare. something you don't find everyday. something amazing. something -- i don't even know how to explain what we had. it's like not a care in the world because you're just so happy to be with that person. >> reporter: young girls are in love sometimes with being in love, but this doesn't sound like that. >> oh, no, no. this was something where you clicked on every level. >> reporter: but out of friendship and respect, they kept the new romance a secret
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from pedro, erica's ex. yet his friends knew something was eating away at pedro ever since graduating from high school. he had been in a kind of funk. >> r. did he change at all? >> yes, as a matter of fact. as time went on, he kind of was a little more withdrawn. he was just starting to keep to himself a little more. i thought he was just depressed, you know. we all go through it. we all feel like, oh my gosh. >> reporter: buddy robert lopez had noticed some odd, alarming behavior. >> we all went out to this restaurant, the swamp. it's well known in gainesville. it's right next to the football stadium. and our tab ran up to like $70 and he picked up the whole tab and we asked him like, pedro, why would you pay for our whole tab. you're paying for all your classes out of pocket. i am mott worried about it. i won't need this money soon. >> reporter: did that give you an insighted into his sned. >> he's not doing okay, that's
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when we realized that. >> reporter: was pedro suicidal? all the more reason for erica and christian to keep their happy romance quiet. >> i was concerned that i was going to push him off the edge. i didn't want him to go home that night knowing that i was dating one of our mutual friends and him thinking, you know, i'm just going to end my life right now. >> reporter: but now with christian's disappearance, the cat was out of the bag. at the university police station that day, erica blurted it out with pedro right there in the room. >> do you know christian? >> yes, yes. >> okay. how do you know him? >> his girlfriend. >> you're his girlfriend, i'm sorry. >> she goes on to tell me that her and christian had started dating but they didn't think pedro knew about them dating. >> reporter: how would pedro react to hearing that? the officer sensed that something seemed to be brewing in the circling of friends, but what that was wasn't clear. for now, everyone was focussed on finding christian. >> they were all feeling like,
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we're all in this together. we're all worried about christian, he's our friend. we're trying to find out -- do whatever we can to help locate him. >> reporter: officer peck could see that erica was becoming increasingly agitated. so as the campus cop was checking out the stories these two friends had told him, he decided it was time to bring in investigators from the gainesville pd. and the first thing they would want to do is to talk to pedro bravo. >> i have to tell you one thing -- >> okay. coming up -- a dramatic new clue. >> we found christian's backp k backpack -- >> where would this discovery lead? >> i overheard police officers discussing like a love triangle. >> i'm starting to believe there maybe more to this than just a missing person. er party. bathroom is trashed and adrien is stuck cleaning again. uh-oh, dudes... come in! let's get this party started. let's bubble! we don't just kill 99.9% of germs.
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of freedom can lead to some less than responsible, even reckless behavior, but in the case of missing freshman, christian aguilar, campus police had begun to suspect something sinister may have happened. so they called in a veteran detective from the gainesville pd. >> when i first walked in, there were two girls sitting in the lobby, which was erica freeman and her sister. there was a mail, which later i found out was pedro bravo was in an interview room. >> are you pedro? >> yes, i'm pedro. >> reporter: since pedro was the last person to have seen christian, he topped the list of people detective i have randy roberts wanted to speak to. >> i wanted to hear mr. bra doe's story from beginning to end exactly as he told upd so i could get a feel for what was going on. >> he's not missing for long. >> me, too. in the last 48 hours, when have you seen christian? >> yesterday. >> reporter: pedro repeated his account of the last day he had
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seen his friend. they ran errands, grabbed a bite to eat, swung over to best buy so christian could pick up the latest kanye west cd. that's them smiling. >> again, he told the story of how they picked up a hitchhiker in a rough part of town. >> how old do you think he was? >> around mid 50s. i can't tell. he had a big, white bushy beard with him. mid 50s, around that. >> how else was he dressed? any hat? >> he had a cowboy hat. >> detective roberts pressed pedro how and why they parted ways that night. pedro revealed that after dropping off the hitchhiker, he and christian got into an argument about a girl, but it had nothing to do with erica. remember, christian and erica had been trying to keep their new relationship a secret. this was about another girl from high school all together. >> and i made a comment about like this girl i used to have a crush on for like three years and he poured his heart out
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there and it didn't work out. he got mad. like, it was fun for a few minutes, and then he told me to stop. stop the car. he wanted to get out. >> okay. what did you do? >> i was angry at him too. i stopped the car and said, fine, get out. >> reporter: the investigator listened with a skeptical ear as pedro described driving away, stopping at mcdonald's and going home to bed with no idea something had happened until his phone rang at 4:00 a.m. and erica told him that christian was missing. >> i got up and tried to go back to sleep but i couldn't. i was -- because i felt kind of guilty because i dropped him off on the road and i was afraid, what if something happened? what if he's lost right now. >> reporter: pedro let them search his car for any clues related to christian. bingo, they found something interesting. >> they found a receipt showing that someone, him or someone else using a vehicle had made a trip to mcdonald's during the night. >> mcdonald's, where pedro
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claimed he had eaton right after christian had jumped out of the car, call it 7:00 p.m. and change. and, yet, the receipt was time stamped much later, 12:54 a.m. more than five hours later than he told them. >> you're going to mcdonald's in the middle of night, maybe you forgot. maybe you forgot something else. >> reporter: the back and forth with drktive roberts sounded more like an interrogation. >> it kind of comes back to bite you in the ass. >> it makes you look like you did something bad. >> reporter: as for that story about the hitchhiker, the cops checked it out but couldn't come out with anything. >> we checked surveillance video in the area where they said they dropped him. looking and didn't find anybody. we checked area businesses to see if there was someone like that that matched the description of the hitchhiker and didn't find anyone. >> reporter: so was pedro bravo hiding something? >> is there anything we need to change about where you went at what times and things like that? >> reporter: well, there was.
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just when it seemed the interview was ending, pedro decided to keep talking. there was something he had left out. >> one thing i have to tell you because, you're right, i can't keep everything from you i have to tell you one thing. >> reporter: and that one thing was huge. >> like in the scope of christian, it wasn't just an argument. i made the comment about the girl he has a crush on he got angry at that. but then he came back with maybe you should just [ bleep ] kill yourself. and that's when i turned around and punched him straight in the face. >> a fistfight. this was a new detail he had never mentioned. pedro was now admitting to leaving his buddy by the side of the road bleeding from a sock in the nose. >> i'm starting to believe there might be something more to this than just a missing person. >> reporter: but why? investigators tried to figure it out, they decided they couldn't let pedro go home. so they charged him with depriving a victim of medical care for bloodying christian's nose and then leaving him on the
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side of the road. >> i had a suspicion that, you know the meeting took a wrong turn and that they got into an argument and what could have happened? what exactly is pedro capable of? >> reporter: meanwhile, the search for christian was only getting bigger. and for his family and friends, more desperate. >> reporter: what's going through your sned is it like me, alex, i'm out in the woods, i'm trying to find you, where are you? >> it was just to do something. you feel so useless and helpless. you're there looking. >> reporter: posters are going up if. >> we're find out og posters and fliers. >> gainesville flis were doing their own searches too as they focussed more and more of that you are attention on pedro bravo and his wobbly story. they executed a search of his apartment less than two days after christian had gone missing. and what did they find stashed way up in pedro's closet? >> we found christian's backpack
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hidden inside of pedro's backpack and a suitcase. >> why would a friend have another friend's backpack. >> why would he hide his backpack so excessively, it was very well hidden. so we thought, this is pedro trying to cover up. >> pedro has gone from being a person of interest to suspect in the disappearance. >> yeah. it was very quickly i felt that that all happened. it's hard to swallow something that huge when it's, you know, this is somebody you've known for so long. >> reporter: erica had to face the possibility that maybe she and christian hadn't been so good at keeping secrets. maybe pedro had known all about their relationship. and it had sent him over the edge. >> i overheard police officers discussing that i -- you know, like a love jealous rage kind of thing, like a love triangle i think they had said. >> reporter: how did you bare up with that? >> i didn't want to think of that. i couldn't imagine somebody doing something so -- especially
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somebody as smart as pedro. >> reporter: but when the crime scene teches processed pedro's suv, there it was, blood. now the police believe pedro hadn't just punched out christian, they believe he killed him. on the friday a week after pedro bravo had helped report his good friend missing, he was charged with first degree murder. >> with the blood evidence, the backpack being hidden and him being away and not being heard of so long, that's when we decided to upgrade the charge to murder. >> reporter: pedro, your high school boyfriend is now charged with first degree murder of the guy your describing of the man of your life. >> yes. that's exactly what happened. very strange, strange life i have. >> reporter: but there's an ax yum in homicide work no body, no case. investigators hadn't found christian's body. so what else were they finding out about pedro bravo? coming up -- the case heads
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into court and the star witness -- >> i didn't want to see him, i didn't want to be around him, i just wanted him gone. >> the young woman at accidenter of it all now facing pedro and a painful past. >> i got really emotional. i got really thrown back. why would you want to show me this? >> when "dateline" continues. and ah, so you can see like right here i can just... you know, check my policy here, add a car, ah speak to customer service, check on a know, all with the ah, tap of my geico app. oh, that's so cool. well, i would disagree with you but, ah, that would make me a liar. no dude, you're on the jumbotron! whoa. ah...yeah, pretty much walked into that one. geico anywhere anytime. just a tap away on the geico app. the heavy lifters.ers. just for men does more than get rid of gray, your facial hair looks fuller, thicker, the best beard ever. after all, you're not just a champion of saturday afternoons.... you're a champion of facial hair.
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as pedro bravo sat in jail, charged with the murder of his friend, christian aguilar, the search for christian continued. his family clinging to hope, but fearing the worst. >> you're there looking all day from sunrise to sunset with people you are meeting along the way, a bunch of volunteers, police officers. >> reporter: but after three weeks of searching -- >> just down this road here is where those two men found human remains on friday afternoon. >> reporter: two hunters walking through some acreage came across a body buried in a shallow grave, it was christian. >> in a way, we had expected it. we were just waiting for that phone call to actually happen. >> reporter: erica could not absorb the news. >> you never want to just accept that kind of news, but at least we were able to find him. >> state of florida versus pedro bravo. >> reporter: nearly two years after christian died, his high school friend pedro was now on trial for murder.
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he bleed not. >> reporter: erica, your personal belief, do you believe that pedro killed christian? >> yes. >> reporter: why? for what reason? >> the mixture of jealousy academically and mixture of jealousy involving me. >> reporter: central to the prosecution case, a love triangle. christian, his new girlfriend erica and her ex, pedro bravo. a motive as old as time the prosecutor said. >> mr. bravo's plan, not just to murder christian agar, that's just a part. he has to reunit with erica. >> reporter: the prosecutor painted a picture of a teenager not just depressed over the breakup, but obsessed with getting erica back. his star witness was the very object of pedro's obsession, a verier in rouse erica. >> i didn't want to see him. i didn't want to be around him. i didn't want near him. i wanted him gone. >> reporter: with pedro barely looking at her, erica red some
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of the non-stop text messages pedro had been sending her. >> i came all this way. i missed you like crazy. i love you despite everything that happened. i maybe stupid, but i can't help the feeling. i'm sorry. i'm so sorry. >> on the stand, the prosecution asked erica to read outloud sections of pedro's journal, thoughts that would show the jury just how fixated on her he was. >> i can win her back. i will win her back. i want to give up everything to be with her again. >> reporter: but it was the sight of an evidence bag containing christian's backpack, his personal stuff from a care-free happy time that caused erica to lose it on the stand. >> i got really emotional, you know. i got really thrown back. i was just like, why did you have to bring this out? why would you want to show me this? >> reporter: and the prosecution wasn't done. there was more to its theory of motive. despite their best efforts, christian and erica hadn't done a very good job concealing their
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relationship from pedro. >> pedro went into christian's facebook and e-mail accounts and red conversations between erica and christian. >> reporter: so christian was the romantic rival and he needed to go, argued the state. >> we knew that he knew about it prior to them going off that day. >> reporter: and this wasn't simply a kriecrime of passion, was a cold, premeditated murder. the prosecution alleged pedro started plotting his friend's murder on september 16th, four days before christian disappeared. >> he's at home and he's on his computer. >> google searches were on pedro's laptop, can rubbing alcohol knock someone out? what kinds of murders get solved? and here on security video, is pedro at a walmart buying a sleep aid product 55 yards of duck tape and a hunting knife. in his hand was a shovel he just
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bought at lowe's. >> he literally bought the murder's starter pack. >> reporter: as the prosecution goes, he used those items to drug and strangle his friend right inside his car. >> that blue blazer pulls in -- >> reporter: they show the video surveillance cam video of ped re 's suv in a walmart parking lot. inside the vehicle, the murder is going down. >> they sit there for a long period of time and then pull up a little further and sit there for another long period of time. >> when he leaves that parking lot, christian aguilar is dead. he murders him in the car. >> reporter: forensics confirm that was christian's blood that investigators had found in pedro's suv. and they discovered even more intriguing evidence in the trunk. an empty gatorade bottle caked with residue from a sleep aid and an anti-histamine. >> putting those two
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combinations together in a large quantity would cause someone to lose consciousness. >> reporter: once christian was dead, pedro had to dispose of his friend's body and the tale of how that happened, the prosecution said, was told by pedro's phone. his iphone had been on airplane mode for more than five hours that night. but they could see that pedro used an app. a flashlight app for 48 minutes. >> he is using the flashlight while he's burying christian's body. >> reporter: the prosecution had yet another piece of physical evidence it said tied pedro beyond a reasonable doubt to the murder. duck tape. >> when we found christian aguilar's body, he had duck tape around his ankles, wrist and neck. piece from his ankle was identified as being torn from the same piece of tape that was inside pedro bravo's windshield. >> reporter: when pedro was down burying his friend the prosecution said, he stopped at mcdonald's for that bite to eat. then he drove to a car wash.
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>> 1:00 a.m. in the morning we have pedro bravo pulling up to a car wash and washing his vehicle for 12 minutes. tells me that he's trying to get rid of evidence. >> reporter: when he got home, he washed his clothes and crawled in bed in time to get erica's 4:00 a.m. phone call asking of christian's whereabouts. >> who duck tape him? pedro bravo. who put him in the grave, pedro bravo. who killed him? pedro bravo. >> reporter: after calling nearly 50 witnesses to the stand, the prosecution rested its case. the defense, though, thought it needed only one witness in response, pedro bravo, was about to take the stand. coming up -- >> i still loved her. >> he would have a dramatically different story to tell. >> did you drink the concoction in the gatorade bot? >> yes, i drank the concoction in the gatorade bottle. >> could the evidence presented against hi
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♪ the prosecution's portrait of pedro bravo was clear and unforgiving. he was so fixated on winning back his former girlfriend, he would kill anyone who got in his way. anyone. >> i didn't think pedro ever deserved to walk the streets.
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i didn't think it would be safe for anyone for him to be out in the real world with normal people. i think he could be borderline soesh owe path. >> reporter: but the defense had a flip side to the pedro bravo narrative. >> 18-year-olds, honor student from miami, charter academy, but he had issues that he wanted to talk to his best friend about. >> reporter: his best friend, that's what the defense said christian was to pedro right up to the time he disappeared. his lawyer insisted that pedro never saw christian as a romantic rival, that's because he didn't know that christian and erica were dating until that day in the police station. >> do you know christian? >> yeah, yeah. >> how do you know him? >> his girlfriend. >> reporter: and now the jury was about to hear from pedro himself, and only pedro, the soul witness for the defense. and when he took the stand, the jurors didn't see some psycho killer but a pail, intelligent,
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love-sick boy in a tidy suit. >> i graduated from doral academy, yes. >> any distinctions? >> i graduated mum cum laude. >> though he denied any mall las toward christian, he conceded another key element of the state's case. he was desperate to rekindle his relationship with erica freeman. >> i still loved her. i really wanted to get back with her. >> reporter: and when it became clear that she wasn't coming back, he told the jury he sank into a deep depression and erica and everything else in his sad life. >> i felt like a failure. everything was a mess. everything feels like a mess and i feel like i'm breaking apart, piece by piece. >> reporter: that's why he made plans to hang out with christian that afternoon. he wanted help from his old friend. >> chris was one of the people i could talk to about this. he had also gone through the same thing. >> reporter: so how did that man-to-man talk end up in a fistfight? pedro says it started after
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christian said something terrible. >> and he tells me, why don't you go [ bleep ] kill yourself. >> what happened next? >> i turn around and i hit him in the nose with my left fist. >> while you're driving? >> while i'm driving, yes. >> that punch in the face could explain how christian's blood ended up in the car. next, pedro told the jury, that he pulled over and the fight moved into the street. but after a few minutes, pedro left the scene. >> what is chris's condition when you leave? >> i could tell that he didn't get up right away, but that he was still moving. >> still breathing? >> yes. >> when you did this, did you have any malicious intent to kill christian aguilar? >> no. it was all spur of the moment. >> all right. and he decided to leave. >> yes. have you come to regret that decision? >> i feel like i'm going to regret that decision for the rest of my life.
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>> reporter: so pedro admitted he fought christian, but claimed he didn't kill him. as he drove away, pedro said the only person he wanted to destroy was himself. that's when he says, he decided to do it. commit suicide. >> now, is this just suicidal ideation or were you going to act on it? >> i was going to act on it. >> reporter: so all that evidence presented by the prosecution wasn't about murder, it was about suicide. the drug-laced gatorade cocktail wasn't meant for christian, it was meant for pedro himself. >> did you drink the concoction in the gad raid bottle? >> yes, i did. >> reporter: obviously an unsuccessful suicide attempt. but the defense argued pedro's desire to end his own life was very real. pedro was combing the web for information about chloroform, rubbing alcohol and sleeping pills because he was planning his own death. he even brought along the shovel as part of his plan.
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>> at the beginning i was going to go and dig myself my grave. >> reporter: so the jury had to decide, who is pedro bravo? a killer without a conscientious or a love-sick boy. but before they got the case, the prosecutors gave something else to consider, some of the weirder evidence ever to come from a jail-house snitch. >> could you state your name, please. >> michael charles anglo. >> michael anglo, who had cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for leniency in his own case was a cell mate of pedro bravo. one day -- >> he said he needed my help so he slid a chip bag under my door. it had a note in it. >> find someone on the outside to commit a series of murders, similar to christian's killing, suggesting that the real murderer was still at large and he, pedro, was innocent. he wrote three to four people unfortunately must die. they are random individuals but preference would be two uf
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students. tased to incopas tate and strangled to kill, then have the hands duck tai tape. >> it's a plan to convince the world that christian aguilar was murdered by a cereal killer that is still out there. >> just as the jurors struggled to get their heads around that bizarre twist the trial came to anened and the fate of pedro bravo was in their hands. so much for one family to go through. you could see the tension on their faces as they began waiting for the verdicts. >> we all talked to each other. that day wasn't a day to celebrate whatever the jury had decided. >> whatever the jury decided, erica knew there would be sorrow all around. in fact, the jurors came back in less than four hours. and they found pedro bravo guilty of murder in the first degree. a verdict the family wanted. but there were no winners that day. about an hour later, pedro bravo faced the judge at his sentencing, insisting to the end -- >> i did not kill christian aguilar. i know in my heart what i did and i know god knows what i did.
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>> reporter: clearly unmoved, the judge seasonsed bravo to life without parol. he is appealing his conviction. the day after the verdict, christian's family made a heart wrenching visit to the place where their beloved son's body had been found. since his death they created the christian aguilar search and rescue foundation. now christian's brother, alex, is embracing an opportunity that has a bittersweetness to it. he just started his freshman year at the university of florida in gainesville. >> i'm going through all the stuff that he went through. i started remembering how he was during that time. i guess now i've always followed his example in school and now that example is gone, so i have, i guess, just follow my own route. >> reporter: erica will be there, but moving ahead has been hard for her.
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she can't forget that fleeting moment when she fell in love with christian and then he was gone just like that. >> we weren't dating that long. we had the death talk. what happens if something happened tomorrow and he got hit by a car and he looked at me, he said, i don't know what i would do without you. i don't know what i would -- i looked at him and i was like, i'll tell you what you're going to do. you're going to find somebody and you're going to live your life. >> reporter: do you ever get up in the morning just shaking your fist in outrage at the heavens. pedro, why did you do this to me? not just christian the victim. you're a victim too. >> it's so difficult to think of it that way. i would still give anything for christian to be here. there's not going to be another smile i see when i look up from working or something. it's not going to happen again. they're just memories. that's all for now. i'm lester holt.
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thanks for joining us. this sunday -- >> obviously, republicans had a good night. >> a democratic midterm melt doub. republicans seize the senate and leave the democrats tangled up in red. >> this election was a repudiation of the president. >> how did the gop create a electoral tsunami nobody saw coming? i will be joined by a possible presidential candidate wisconsin's scott walker and political big hitter howard dean. and the republicans say they will work with the president for the good of the country. >> i will enjoy some kentucky bourbon with mitch mcconnell. >> it is going to be a lot of hard work. >> and the e re/*


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